Kang Baek-ho (24), a powerful hitter representing KT Wiz, returned to the first team after 41 days. He is expected to be used as a pinch hitter in the decisive game when his physical condition is not perfect. ‘Veteran’ Kim Sang-soo (33) will also be available as a pinch hitter. Will KT’s game plan work?
The KT Wiz will open the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at home against the LG Twins at 6:30 p.m. on May 5 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon.
Ahead of the game, KT added infielders Kang Baek-ho and Kim Sang-soo to the first team roster and removed pitcher Lee Sun-woo from the first team roster.스포츠토토
It’s been 41 days since Kang Baek-ho returned to the first team. After being sent down to the second team on July 27, Kang Baek-ho focused on improving his form after being out of the first team for a while. He didn’t play much in the Futures League either. From September 1-3 against the Sangmu, he batted .250 (8-for-2) with one double, one RBI, one run, two walks, two strikeouts, a .375 on-base percentage, and a .364 slugging percentage.
Kang hasn’t gotten much playing time for KT this season. He was sent down to the second team in early June, when KT was on a roll, and then briefly moved up in July. However, he was sent back down to the second team again, citing physical and mental exhaustion, and did not play in the Futures League to recover as much as possible. At the time, Lee said, “I think we need to give (Kang) Baek-ho some more time. Mental strength is important right now. He needs to be mentally strong to be able to train. I’m going to give Baek-ho some time,” and put his trust in him.
KT head coach Lee Kang-cheol said before the game, “I’m going to use Kang Baek-ho as a substitute for the time being. I’m not thinking about starting him yet.” “He hasn’t had enough time (to return to the field) to show his best form yet, but he says he’s ready. It was difficult not to bring him up when there was a substitute spot available,” Lee said, adding, “We’ll see how he plays in the game first. After that, we’ll tell him how we plan to use him, including starting him.”
In 57 games this season, Kang is batting .261 (203-for-53) with six home runs, 32 RBIs, 29 runs scored, three doubles, 27 walks, 48 strikeouts, a .399 on-base percentage and a .345 slugging percentage. He is batting .333 with runners in scoring position.
“We will look at the situation on a day-to-day basis and consider whether to start Kang Baek-ho,” Lee said. KT will be able to build a stronger batting lineup if Kang Baek-ho plays his part in the center of the batting order. Kang has also been named to the Korean baseball team for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. The best-case scenario would be for him to play in the Asian Games while regaining his form in the league.
Along with Kang Baek-ho, KT also called up Kim Sang-soo, who had been rehabbing from an injury for a while. Kim’s return comes 10 days after he was sidelined with an ankle sprain. However, he is not yet fully fit. For now, he feels most comfortable batting.
Lee said of Kim, “It’s hard to send him out because he can’t make backhanded catches in defense yet. If it’s necessary, he might come in at the end of the game, but he says he’s fine hitting for now. He could be a pinch-hitter.” “There are a lot of times when we have to use a pinch-hitter at shortstop, so he can be used as a substitute. If Kim Sang-soo’s defense is difficult, Hwang Jae-gyun could play shortstop.”
Meanwhile, KT’s lineup for the day was Choi Sung-ho (right fielder), Hwang Jae-gyun (third baseman), Anthony Alford (left fielder), Park Byung-ho (designated hitter), Jang Sung-woo (catcher), Oh Yun-seok (first baseman), Lee Ho-yeon (second baseman), Bae Jeong-dae (center fielder), and Jang Jun-won (shortstop). The starting pitcher will be ‘foreign ace’ William Cuevas. LG’s starting batting order is Hong Chang-ki (right fielder), Shin Min-jae (second baseman), Kim Hyun-soo (designated hitter), Austin (first baseman), Moon Bo-kyung (third baseman), Oh Ji-hwan (shortstop), Heo Do-hwan (catcher), Moon Sung-joo (left fielder), and Park Hae-min (center fielder). The starting pitcher was Choi Won-tae. The matchup between the two teams has garnered attention as a “preview of the Korean Series” for the first and second place teams as the KBO league heads into the second half of the season. With everyone predicting an all-out war, who will emerge victorious? All eyes are on Suwon as the KBO League fans gather in the city.